One former paratrooper is to be prosecuted for two murders and four attempted murders on Bloody Sunday, Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has announced.
The veteran, known as Soldier F, will face prosecution for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell in Derry in 1972.
Sixteen other former British soldiers and two suspected ex-members of the Official IRA, all of whom were also investigated as part of a major police murder probe, will not face prosecution, the PPS said.
Thirteen civil rights demonstrators were shot dead on January 30, 1972, on one of the most notorious days of the Troubles.
Northern Ireland’s director of public prosecutions Stephen Herron said: “It has been concluded that there is sufficient available evidence to prosecute one former soldier, Soldier F, for the murder of James Wray and William McKinney, and for the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell.
“In respect of the other 18 suspects, including 16 former soldiers and two alleged Official IRA members, it has been concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. In these circumstances the evidence Test for Prosecution is not met.”
Relatives of the Bloody Sunday families were visibly upset after learning of the prosecution decisions at a city centre hotel this morning.
As well as the 13 who died on the day, 15 others were shot and injured. One of the injured died months later from an inoperable tumour and some consider him the 14th fatality.
The soldiers were members of a support company of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment.
Prosecutors had been considering evidence in relation to counts of murder, attempted murder and causing grievous injury with intent.
The Irish Government has "noted" today's announcement by the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland in a statement.
"Our thoughts are with all the families of those who were killed and those injured on Bloody Sunday, for whom today will be another difficult and emotional day.
"The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is keeping in contact with the families at this time on behalf of the Government.
"All victims’ families deserve, and must have access to, effective investigations into killings that took place, and have the opportunity to find justice in accordance with the law and regardless of the perpetrator."
Bloody Sunday helped galvanise support for the Provisional IRA early in the Troubles.
An image of Father Edward Daly waving a bloodstained handkerchief as he tried to help a victim to safety went around the world.
A public inquiry conducted by a senior judge shortly after the deaths was branded a whitewash by victims’ families and a campaign was launched for a new public inquiry.
Relatives sought to right the wrongs of false claims that their loved ones had been armed.
A fresh probe was eventually ordered by then British prime minister Tony Blair in 1998.
A decade-long investigation by Lord Saville of Newdigate concluded that the troops killed protesters who posed no threat, and seriously criticised the decision to send them into the Bogside estate in vehicles.
Following the inquiry’s conclusion in 2010, then British prime minister David Cameron said the killings were “unjustified and unjustifiable”.
A murder investigation by the PSNI followed the £195 million inquiry and files on 18 soldiers were submitted to prosecutors in 2016 and 2017 for consideration. One has since died.
Four other British soldiers included in the Saville Report died before police had completed their investigation.
Papers before prosecutors included 668 witness statements and numerous photos, video and audio evidence.
- Press Association